Bold Business Logo

Science vs. Nature: Fighting Earthquakes with Superdirt

Natural disasters come in all varieties, and earthquakes are among those that impose the most serious of threats. One of the phenomena associated with earthquakes involves a process known as soil liquefaction, which occurs when wet, loose soil is vigorously shaken. And this occurrence can culminate in catastrophic effects when such soils support various structures.

While protection from earthquakes is needed throughout the world, Oregon has several oil tanks located along its Willamette River. For this reason, a team of researchers is investigating new ways to prevent soil liquefaction related to earthquakes. And their approach to this pursuit is one that is not only interesting but incredibly inexpensive as well.

Scientist talking dirt.
Soil liquefaction is a danger in earthquakes, but science may soon be mitigating the threat.

Understanding and Preventing Soil Liquefaction

Soil liquefaction is quite an interesting phenomenon that can occur during a major earthquake. In essence, soil that is rather loose and has poor structural integrity is prone to absorb water. When a major earthquake hits, the shaking that ensues essentially invites this phenomenon to occur. Thus, rather than remaining more solid in nature, the soil “liquefies” resulting in an inability to support other structures. Naturally, this case can result in devastating effects depending on the structures present.

In the past, engineers have attempted protection from earthquakes and soil liquefaction through an array of strategies. Specifically, stone columns have been added to soils, or grouts have been infused. Other techniques have also included “pounding” the soil to make it less loose and more compact. While all these help with protection from earthquakes, they are costly and not necessarily environment-friendly. For these reasons, engineers are seeking better ways to prevent soil liquefaction and reduce the impacts this occurrence can cause.

Soil liquefaction is a problem
Science may have the answer to the protection from earthquakes riddle.

A Novel Approach to Preventing Soil Liquefaction

Efforts to discover newer and better ways for protection from earthquake effects are still perpetually being pursued. In Toronto this past year, researchers tested a way to enhance calcium carbonate production in soils to reduce soil liquefaction. While this attempt failed, the process did leave the soil aerated and less saturated with water. As a result, it prompted researchers to consider a new way of preventing soil liquefaction through gas-forming microorganisms.

The current research now being explored involves injecting the soil with microorganisms that produce nitrogen and carbon dioxide gases. Once these gas bubbles exist in the soil, they might prevent water from gaining access during earthquakes. In other words, this re-engineering of soil at a molecular level could deter soil liquefaction completely. And given that it’s eco-friendly and 20 times less expensive, this form of protection from earthquakes could be revolutionary.

a cartoon of a scientist using super dirt to prevent soil liquefication for a more a more earthquake-resistant structures
The results of the current research on enhancing calcium carbonate production in soils to reduce soil liquefaction are being monitored with great anticipation!

A Potential for Protection from Earthquakes Worldwide

For Oregon, the relevance of this research in deterring soil liquefaction is critically important. Currently, 90 percent of Portland’s oil supply resides in tanks along the Willamette River. The 62 acres upon which these tanks occupy are areas prone to soil liquefaction if a major earthquake occurs. Notably, such a case would create the potential for a major environmental disaster, and would, similarly, prevent ease of access to needed fuel during a time of crisis. This fact is one reason the current testing of this new “superdirt” is being performed in the Portland region.

thumbnail image of soil liquefaction infographic

soil liquefaction infographic

Should this new method of protection from earthquakes prove to be effective, its potential for use globally should be noted. Trillions of dollars of infrastructures could be more readily protected from the effects of soil liquefaction. Likewise, the administration of the microorganisms that deter soil liquefaction is noninvasive and eco-friendly. Therefore, the results of the current research are being monitored with great anticipation. If found effective, this bold and innovative approach could completely change the way we employ methods or systems of protection from earthquakes in the future.

Biometric Wallets and Frictionless Payments: A Glimpse at the Future of Money

Cash was once the king of payments. But the rise of plastic—credit and debit cards—eventually cut short its reign. And soon, with biometric wallets and frictionless payments, a new kind of transaction is poised to take over. For instance, fingerprint payments are used in AV Supermarket stores in Russia. In India, Aadhar Pay and Axis Bank utilize the country’s National ID System to facilitate in-store transactions. China takes it a notch higher with the use of Alipay’s Smile to Pay facial recognition system. And in the U.S., mobile wallets by Apple, Google, and Samsung have gained traction as a form of frictionless payment.

With convenience literally at your fingertips, payments made through fingerprint and facial scans have been leapfrogging other digital and cashless modes of payments.  Security is the primary motivation. Transactions made through biometric wallets are seen as safer since biometrics act as an added layer of identification and authentication. Also, as financial inclusion is still a challenge in most countries, biometric wallets and frictionless payment systems can help address this issue. With this technology, consumers with physical and reading disability can participate in the economic process. As the world moves towards digitalization, widespread adoption of biometric wallets and frictionless payments is inevitable.

a photo quote of Brad Jones in relation to the topic of biometric wallets and frictionless payments
Users of biometric technology are projected to reach 1.2 billion people by the year 2020.

The Merits of Biometric Wallets and Frictionless Payments

Without a doubt, consumers are responding positively to biometric wallets and frictionless payments. With these ongoing trends, users of biometric technology are projected to reach 1.2 billion people by the year 2020. Here are the main drivers for the accelerated adoption:

  • Biometric wallets and frictionless payments are fast and efficient. PIN and passwords can take a while and cause cognitive stress to consumers. On the other hand, fingerprint and digital wallet scans happen almost instantly, saving consumers from long lines at checkout counters. Amazon Go Stores is an example of how frictionless payments can improve customer experience. With the use of a combination of cameras and sensors, all items within the store are tracked. Items that go into the shopping bag are automatically charged against the customer’s Amazon account.
  • With the increase in fraudulent activities and data breach, the consumers’ need for security and safety is a top priority. Through biometric technology, businesses will have the capability to answer the consumers’ pressing security needs. Just recently, Netherlands-based digital security company Gemalto partnered with U.K. bank Natwest. The partnership is testing a debit card with a built-in fingerprint scanner.
  • Thanks to fintech, previously underserved and excluded customers can now have access to financial services. A lot of people, especially in developing economies, are still underbanked due to inability to provide proper identification documents. With the use of biometric wallets and frictionless payments, every sector of society can participate in financial and economic activities. Indeed, with the help of digital and biometrics technology, financial inclusion can be achieved.

Ongoing Challenges and Developments in Biometrics Technology

As in the case of every new technology, biometric wallets and frictionless payments are not impervious to risks. Depending on the modality, this technology has a variety of challenges and areas for improvement. Fingerprint scanning has been used by law enforcers to identify individuals with criminal records. This case makes some consumers hesitant in sharing fingerprint data. On the other end, since facial and voice recognition are, factually, exposed biometric modes, they may be prone to data privacy and spoofing issues. Cost of implementation is also another challenge. Iris and retina scans have been proven to have high accuracy and more secure, but the setup and maintenance cost can be exorbitant.

Fortunately, the emerging trends in biometric technology and identity management are moving towards the resolution of these challenges. Anti-spoofing mechanisms are thusly incorporated in biometric devices. Moreover, new biometric values are being developed. Soon, the shape of one’s ear, a person’s scent, and even the way a person walks may be used as a form of authentication and identification.

a photo of a grocery aisle and translucent image of a hand holding up a smart phone and the crisscrossing network lines depicting the rise of biometric wallets
It’s undeniable: consumers are responding positively to biometric wallets and frictionless payments.

Looking Into the Future of Money

As businesses integrate biometric technologies in their systems and as the said technology becomes more ubiquitous, the adoption of the technology is intensified. With a payment system that is fast, more efficient, secure and more inclusive, more consumers can participate in economic activities.  Biometric wallets and frictionless payments are still in their infancy, but they certainly are the inevitable future of money.

Preventing Soil Liquefaction: The Solution For An Earthquake-Resistant Structures

a cartoon of a scientist using super dirt to prevent soil liquefication for a more a more earthquake-resistant structures
The results of the current research on enhancing calcium carbonate production in soils to reduce soil liquefaction are being monitored with great anticipation!